Ava Skymart: Curious case of inflight free gift and shopping! - eNidhi India Travel Blog

Ava Skymart: Curious case of inflight free gift and shopping!

Let us do some introspection about in-flight shopping in this post. This post focuses on AVA skymart's products sold to passengers of Indian airlines like Spicejet, Air India etc

It always feels good to win something and few shopping companies have mastered this art of deception to make people buy overpriced, unbranded items in the air, under the name of free gifts.
There are a few companies in the world which run shopping in the air- they tie up with airlines to distribute a catalog of items, which customers may review during their flight and order the same. Many of these catalogs claim the items are way cheaper if ordered in air, than on ground, which is seldom true. They also claim to offer a free gift to lucky winners, provided winners pay Rs 999+tax towards handling charges. (2019 Update: Now it is  INR1299+ taxes)

Let us first look at the free gift part.

Ava SkyMart is one such company that runs sales in flight in Spicejet, earlier JetAirways and few other airline flights. Along with meal tray, a small booklet is supplied to each passenger. The booklet includes a list of items that one can buy and also a peel and win option, in which passengers tend to win some items, but they need to pay Rs 999+tax towards handling

Here is the tricky/unethical part of it
1. Everyone is a winner- There will not be a single booklet that says "Sorry, you won nothing". Every booklet offers something or the other to passenger as "Free Gift"
2. MRP of the product is shown 4-5 times higher than current retail price to create a false sense of "huge saving"
3. Most of the items are from brands you have never heard before. These brands won't have any significant presence offline and it is near impossible to compare their current selling price or avail any after sales service, let alone check for reviews from existing customers.
4. If a product is worth Rs 1000, taxes will be to the tune of 10-15% max and shipping expense of about Rs 50-100 usually. but try telling that to the counter staff and demand explanation why you should pay Rs 999 1299 + tax?- AVA skymart or such companies won't explain.
5. The Rs 999 1299 + taxes, handling charge etc almost always same as or greater than the value of the product itself. There is no option to skip this handling charges, even you are willing to go directly to the factory of manufacturer anywhere in the world and collect it in person, so that Ava doesn't incur any shipping/handling expenses :)
6. This booklet could be given along with boarding pass so that passengers have enough time to evaluate and buy but NO- doing so would give passengers enough time to compare price, speak to their friends etc and their chances of buying anything drops to zero. If given in-flight and if asked to collect soon after arrival, probability of passengers realizing in time that they have been tricked is very low.
7. It is not clear how refund/replacement process works if product is found to be defective after you leave the airport.
8. Also more than one item is listed as 'won'  usually one item that appeals to men and another to women etc, so that everyone has high probability of liking whatever they "won". I went through this circus four times during my Chennai-Jodhpur and return trip last week. In one leaflet it was generic that I am entitled to pickup "Any item in the leaflet" - what a huge favor!. I am sure they will have no issues if you want to win every item on offer, as long as you are willing to pay Rs 1299 per item. Because genuine cost of product is lot less than Rs 1299

Earlier it was scratch and win- we had to look for a coin or something and scratch it. Now it is made easy with peel and win. Probably they can replace the peeler and reuse. But I doubt the commercial viability of re-using them (airline staff won't have time to check which one is in good condition for re-use vs which all have to be discarded as they are damaged in contact with food, water etc from meals tray. If you are buying something in-flight, you are effectively compensating the operator on behalf of 1000s of others who never bought anything but still incurred a cost to the company.

What has been your experience with these in-flight free-gifts with expensive handling charges? It surprises me that some people are running a whole company with an idea that they can trick people into buying stuff under the name of free gifts. Running this free gift-in-flight shopping operation is not cheap- it has several expenses:

1. Cost of operating kiosks in various airports- Airport rental, staff salary, other overheads- they need to run these across several airports -at least main ones- in India to have reasonable business volume. Operating a kiosk inside airport will be 3 to 5 times expensive than running the same inside the city.

2. Amount to be paid to airlines: I doubt if airlines facilitate this for free. Because airline staff need to make announcements, keep one booklet in each meal tray, clear trash etc. My guess is airlines either charge a fixed fee or a commission on each sales. So that is extra expense flyers need to pay (indirectly)

3. Cost of actual products that need to be paid to manufacturer and logistics cost (to ship them to airport counters)

4. Back office cost- to print booklets and distribute them, run call centres and other administrative expenses.

There's no way you can sell a product cheap on air compared to a city shop. They have to resort to cheap tricks and manipulation to make people buy onboard.

Since these in-flight shopping/free gift business is running since several years, I am assuming good number of passengers end up buying these things once in a while, enough for company to recover its cost and may be make a small profit.

Let us compare some prices of Ava Skymart's free gifts!
A U-Globe 10000 mAh is shown to be worth Rs 4550 in Ava SkyMart free gift catalog for which you need to pay Rs 999 as handling charges. (+ taxes) While exact model number offered by Ava Skymart is not known, U-Globe 10000 mAh power banks are available for Rs 1161 onwards on flipkart- Rs 162 more, taxes included, with free home delivery, refund/replacement service and other benefits. I am sure what Ava Skymart is giving would be a much cheaper, old model which is not worth Rs 999+ tax we have to pay as "handling charges"

Looks like this U-Globe brand is existing solely to aid fooling of customers, as MRP of Rs 4550 for a 10k mAh is not justified under any standards. In the name of handling charges and taxes AVA will probably make you pay Rs 1200 or more and make money on every "free gift" they are generously giving to airline passengers. So smart.

The irony is Ava itself is contradicting their pricing. If you wish to buy, they have on offer a 15000 mAh Flasharge power-bank, which is said to have an MRP of 3750 but being sold at 1990. No one has heard of this Flasharge brand. Popular Intex 16000 mAh powerbank is available for Rs 1349 on flipkart instead. So you decide the worth of these in flight sales gimmicks.

It is cheaper for Ava Skymart to let me win a Rs 3750, 15000 mAh powerbank for Rs 999 instead of giving me Rs 4550 worth power bank at Rs 999 (they get to save about 800 Rs), but try explaining this to their staff! - Since I am helping them save Rs 800 by taking a Rs 3750 worth product instead of Rs 4550 worth product, AVA should charge me just Rs 199 (Rs 999-800 saved). But so such rationale will be entertained because the Rs 4550 value is over inflated to tempt people to shell out Rs 999+ tax.

But then, India has large population, majority of which doesn't have the time, patience or the idea of doing some research before their purchase and gets tricked buy what's advertised to them. Many companies survive on these ignorant customers.

In flight shopping might be worth if you are looking for collectibles like airline t shirts, mini planes, airport set, or such items which are not available for purchase once on ground. Commercially speaking, there is no way one can sell things cheaper in air than on ground.

What are your thoughts? Do you think in-flight shopping is indeed cheaper? in flight shopping is another source of revenue for airlines, to extract some more cash from captive audience who are bored in flight, busy and stressed for time once on ground, commercially well off and have limited options on board to cross check anything and even limited options to complain after leaving the plane, if they realize that the transaction was not worth it.

One tip to avoid impulsive shopping would be to pocket this booklet, check the prices offline at your convenience and if you still find value, purchase it during your return flight.

Company Name is AVA Merchandising and they are operating in about 36 airports in India. Official website here if you're interested.

August 2019 Update: 3 years since I wrote the post, the company AVA Skymart is still doing good business fooling air passengers. Jet Airways is gone but they have tied up with Spicejet and other airlines. Do check the comments.

Found one in Air India too- handling charge has now gone up to INR 1299 from Rs 999. A sample leaflet below- selling Rs 600-700 neck pillow for Rs 1300

Similar: TigerAir experience * Scoot Budget airline begins India operations * Comparing 7 European airlines * AirAsia major delay experience * Flight Simulator experience * 10 bad habits every air traveler should avoid from next flight *  Mustafa centre vs Changi airport which is cheaper? * Srilankan Airline redemption experience *


  1. You will soon be in demand by all these guys not to blog about them lol!!
    Great job!! Power to you!!

  2. The quality of stuff sold leaves much to be desired.

  3. I have never fallen prey t that tactic. Fortunately. :)

    But I think you are creating a market for yourself by blogging about all these controversial (not for us, but them) stuff. :)

  4. @nisha- hmm, I am only putting forward my observations. If it saves a few hard earned rupee for a few people, I will be happy.

  5. Oh I am also trapped.......next time I will be careful

  6. Ava is a fraudulent company giving false hopes. Beware. Just throw the booklet into dustbin / trash when you are offered inflight

  7. If really they want to offer as a free gift then they should keep that much of products with the airlines staff to give in-flight itself.

    1. If only it was that simple... no one wants to give anything free- it is all clever marketing

  8. I have boarding passes from cochin to mumbaiby skyjet airlinessk 168 how ican reedem free gift pl explain in detail

    1. you mean spicejet? Check with airline- not sure how we can help

  9. I should have read this blog 3 days back... before purchasing 'free gifts' from Ava hub at the airport. Why to blame anyone else than my own self for not being thoughtful before trusting this trick!!! Soon at home I checked the brand of the product I purchased and was shocked to see that the same is available online less than the amount I paid as tax etc for the item at the hub. In fact its responsibility of the airport authorities to allow only authentic and ethical merchandises. When I wrote to the feedback address of the company, I was told that 'online portals selling the same depends upon certain stock, sales scheme and promotional activities!!!!' Well, your blog will help many others not to be cheated like this.

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience... I am sure you will be careful in future and alert others too..

  10. Thank you! I was tempted to buy a power bank by AVA on my Vijayawada to Mumbai spicejet flight, and then when I looked it up on phone once I landed, I read this article. I didn’t waste time going there, and I was already in a rush. Thank you so much!


Appreciate your efforts and interests to comment. Comments may be moderated due to increased spam. Will ideally respond to comments within few days.Use Anonymous option if you don't wish to leave your name/ID behind- Shrinidhi

Powered by Blogger.